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Posts Tagged ‘sunflowers’

Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her father, shows Matilda posing with flowers in the botanic gardens in Edinburgh.

Matilda and flower

The forecast had suggested that if I wanted to cycle in dry conditions, a prompt start might be advisable as rain was on the way by midday  It seemed like a plausible prediction so I arranged with Dropscone for coffee at eleven and set off after breakfast to go round my customary 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

Although I could see rain across the plain below when I got to the top of the hill after 5 miles, I stuck to my belief in the forecast and pedalled on.  I took the precaution though of not stopping to take any pictures as I went round and my only pause was to answer a text from Sandy on the possibility of coffee.  I got round dry.

Both Dropscone and Sandy arrived on cue for coffee (and scones with apple jelly) and I was interested to find that Dropscone had a acquired a new second hand car as his previous vehicle after well over 100,000 miles had come to the end of its useful life.  His new vehicle is a youthful 7 year old.  It was also interesting to find out that Sandy had bought a new camera as his old pocket camera had also come to the end of its days.

After coffee, with the rain still holding off, Mrs Tootlepedal and I did some gardening.  I mowed a lawn and did some shredding while Mrs Tootlepedal was in Attila the Gardener mode and did useful clearing up and letting light in.

I let some light into my camera.

The new bed continues to thrive and there are even a few second flush delphiniums threatening to come out.

poppies in new bed

Old friends are still flowering:

fuchsia, camanula and cornflower

It has been a good year for the fuchsias, the campanula is on its second burst and the cornflowers have been out all summer.

cosmos, marigold and anemone

The cosmos continues to delight, the French marigolds shine on after the carrots they protect have all been eaten and the Japanese anemones light up a dark corner of the garden.

Elsewhere there were small insects to make up for the lack of butterflies.

bug on dahlia

Easy to spot on the dahlia but harder to see hidden in a lamium flower.

bug in lamium

Mrs Tootlepedal has tried a new more dainty hosta this year and they are just coming into flower.

little hosta

A few flowers on a new dicentra offer promise of a great sensation next year.

new dicentra

And the onset of autumn can no longer be denied…

virginia creeper

…even though summer sights are still to be seen.

sunflowers

A small yellow weed with a prickly leaf has sprouted in the soon to be dismantled strawberry bed.

yellow weed

We had to leave the garden when the promised rain started at lunchtime and as it is still continuing as I wrote this in the evening, the only other flowers that I saw today were tastefully arranged by the head gardener in a vase indoors.

vase of flowers

I had plenty of Archive Group work to do though so I wasn’t bored and I found time to set up the tripod and get the camera to do some bird watching.

The sparrows were back, both on the seed feeder….

four sparrows

The one on the right looks as though it is smoking not snacking

…and on the fat balls.

sparrows on fatballs

A few chaffinches appeared and with the sparrows went in for sideways flying in a big way.

sideways birds

There was formation flying as well.

flying sparrow and chaffinch in unison

Later in the afternoon, while Mrs Tootlepedal did her embroidery accounts on the computer, I made a pound of raspberries that I had picked before the rain arrived into two jars of quick raspberry jam.

Then my flute pupil Luke came and we started work on a trio sonata by Quantz which is quite demanding on finger agility and counting skills so we won’t be short of things to practice when the long nights draw in.

We are in for that meteorological paradox, a steady spell of changeable weather and gardening, cycling and walking will be a hit and miss affair for the next ten days.  It helps when, like today, the forecast is accurate.  I live in hope on that front.

The flying bird of the day is an elegantly arched  chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Highland correspondent Jenni.  She went even further north from Inverness for a cruise and found herself in Alaskan waters.

alaskan cruise

We had an uncharacteristically dull day here both as far as the weather went and my level of activity.  Mrs Tootlepedal was up and at it early with a trip to Carlisle and back by bus before lunch but drizzly rain and a brisk breeze discouraged me from doing much more than a little garden tidying and a trip to the corner shop in a dry spell.

I didn’t even get my camera out until after lunch.

The dahlias don’t seem to mind the rain much…

yellow dahlia

…but a hellenium…

hellenium

..and a rudbeckia appear rather depressed.

rudbeckia

The small sunflowers make up in numbers what they lack in height…

short sunflowers

…and both the plums…

crowded plums

…and the apples can’t be accused of any lack of effort.

apples

Indeed, I have thinned the plums several times already and took off another twenty today without making any noticeable difference to the crop.

The Christmas tree, which is having its summer holiday in the vegetable garden, doesn’t seem very sure about which way it is going at all.

christmas tree august

I had some fun trying to photograph a fine red poppy.  It was exposed to the breeze and after several complete failures…

red poppy in wind 1

…I finally managed to catch it at the top of its swaying motion.

red poppy in wind 2

This little excursion completed my outdoor work for the day and I went in to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and have another unavailing round in my battle against the recalcitrant printer. Printer 4 Tom 0.

A gloomy afternoon was improved by the arrival of Luke for our weekly flute playing efforts and I got a couple of new studies from the internet for us to play.  The internet is an endless source of free flute duets and I put that in the balance against the greed and manipulation of the big internet companies.

Our good spell of weather looks as though it has finally come to an end, with cooler temperatures and rain forecast for every day this week until the weekend.  I will have to remember what it is like to bicycle in less than perfect conditions if I am not to fall behind my schedule again.

For some mysterious reason, there have been hardly any birds in the garden for the last two days after a very busy spell so the flying bird of the day is a solitary siskin sitting down.

siskin

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows an interesting robin, seen in Nottingham by my brother Andrew.

robin from nottingham

After many weeks absence, we saw a robin in our garden today….

robin in July

…but it was a rather more modest bird than the Nottingham one..

Alert readers will have noted the absence of Sandy from the blog in recent weeks.  The reason for this is that he has been very busy building a shed in his garden with the help of a friend who is knowledgeable about such things.  The shed is finally finished and he was able to come for a coffee today.  It was good to see him and catch up on his news.  I hope to go for a visit to the shed soon and get a picture of it.

The forecast was as unreliable as the weather today and we had a mixture of sunshine and showers.  Some unexpected sunshine  in the morning allowed time for gardening and while Mrs Tootlepedal did what she called ‘editing’, I did a little mowing, some hedge shortening (vertically rather than horizontally), dead heading, shredding and wandering about with my camera in my hand.

The first focus was on white things.

A set of hostas are producing very pretty white flowers….

white hosta flower

…and I like this paper white poppy.

white poppy

Although there is an occasional peacock butterfly about, I haven’t been able to get a good shot of them so I had to make do with a white butterfly on the buddleia again.

white butterfly on buddleia

More colourful flowers were to be seen.

yellow flowers

red flowers

I like sweet peas a lot so I am pleased to see them doing well this year.

sweet peas

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that this flower is a California poppy or eschscholzia californica…

californian poppy

…but she is at a loss as to how it came to be where it is.  She had a packet of seeds at some time but she didn’t sow them there.

A lot of the tall sunflowers have fallen victim to the wind and the rain but happily, some have survived.

sunflowers

And Mrs Tootlepedal is particularly pleased that the zinnias have come through too.  She was giving them some extra support today.

zinnia survived

I liked the cheerful colours of her new berberis.

berberis

During the morning,  chief data miner Nancy called in with another pile of weeks of the newspaper index ready for entering in the database.  I shouldn’t complain as it gives me something useful to do on rainy days.

Having checked the forecast, which offered ‘rain later’, I had an early lunch and went out for a bike ride.  It was a day for skulking in the valley bottom with heavy clouds and a noticeable wind blowing.

“Rain later’ turned into ‘rain now’ when I got about four miles from town so I turned back with a view to considering my options when I got home.  Fortunately the rain stopped after about nine miles and I pottered back up the road again to the gate on Callister…

callister gate

…which is getting ever more overgrown.

The weather was set fair for a while…Callister view

…and with the wind now behind me, I whizzed back down the hill.  After four day with no cycling, the twenty miles just kept me ahead of my schedule for the year.  My timing was good as it started to rain soon after I got back.

I went upstairs to have a shower and took the opportunity to look down on the bird feeder from above for a change.

A chaffinch perched on the feeder pole…

chaffinch

…which was probably the safest place to be as down below a greenfinch was taking revenge for the kicking one of the family got from a chaffinch yesterday.

greenfinch kicking chaffinch

The unfortunate kickee made off at speed.

chaffinch departing

I had a closer look at the sparrow on the feeder…

bald sparrow

..and noticed that it has a bald patch.  The siskin on the right has been trapped and released by the bird ringers.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and was not allowed to leave without taking some courgettes.

Then my flute pupil Luke came and I had a useful idea which led to an improvement in his playing.  It is always helpful for a teacher to remember that if a pupil isn’t learning something, then the teacher not the pupil is probably almost certainly at fault.

In the evening, I went to play Telemann trios with Mike and Isabel.  I was a bit short of puff by the time that we got to the end of the third sonata but it was very enjoyable all the same.

The unsettled weather is set to continue and with strong winds and rain showers about tomorrow, I may have already completed my cycling for July!

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, who got the chance of a ride in a hot air balloon.  Her picture shows how far I would have gone on the journey before finding something else to do.  I don’t like heights.  She was very brave and has put lots of pictures from her flight on her blog.

filling the balloon

It rained again here….

wet philadelphus

…but once again only very lightly and not enough to register on the scientific rain gauge.

I had time to put in a load of washing and  do a little gardening after breakfast before a visitor arrived.  It was Murray, an old university friend .  His wife was working for the day in Carlisle so he took the opportunity to come up for a coffee.   He brought some very nice biscuits with him and Scott the minister’s finely tuned biscuit radar must have been working well because he  arrived not long afterwards.  As Murray is an ex church organist and from a family of ministers, he and Scott and plenty to talk about.

Scott says that his chickens are enjoying the coconuts and as our birds don’t seem to like them, I think that the coconuts will soon  be returning to the manse.

Murray, who has spent most of his working lifetime in the theatre, went off to inspect the Buccleuch Centre before going back to Carlisle, promising to come again soon when he and his wife return to the area.

I had the bird watching camera up both before and after the visit (but not during it, of course).

The birds got stuck in early today…

chaffinch and siskins

…and were still at it when the evening came…

siskin, greenfinch, sparrow

…though some wasted time in shouting…

siskin shouting

…when they could have been eating.

A sparrow concentrated on the important thing in life.

sparrow on feeder

There were plenty of insects about in the garden, some more welcome than others.

greenfly on cornflower

The stachys is going over but it still has enough flowers to make it attractive…

bee on stachys flower

…to all and sundry.

bee on stachys

There are still no coloured butterflies about but I did catch a moth, which obligingly stopped right in front of me.

moth on hairy leaf

(The general whiskeriness of plants when you look at them closely continues to delight me.)

For a cloudy day, there was plenty of sunshine about…

tall sunflowers

…and the zinnias would brighten any day.

zinnia

After another bowl of nourishing green soup for my lunch, I went to hang out the washing before going cycling and, of course, it started to rain.

However this was another false alarm and it soon stopped and I got the washing hung up and my new bike out.

It was windy again.  The new cooler weather pattern is bringing winds from the Atlantic across the country and while the relative coolness (18°C) was most welcome to me, the wind was less so.

It was strong enough to make me concentrate on cycling so I didn’t stop for many pictures but the mass of meadowsweet near Wauchope Schoolhouse did stop me in my tracks.

meadowsweet at wauchope Schoolhouse

And I like the little carpet of birds foot trefoil beside the cycle track at Hagg on Esk.

birds foot trefoil

I stopped for a breather, a drink and a wildflower check at Irvine House before the final push back to Langholm.

I have passed a lot of these over the past few weeks without recording them.

wild geranium

And I managed to find an umbellifer without a red soldier beetle on it.

hoverfly on umbellifer

We have had another new bench delivered from our local benchmaker and it provided a handy place to sit down and rest when I got back after 32 miles.

post cycling selfie

In  spite of several hundred miles in the sunshine, my legs refuse to acquire a cyclist’s tan and remain as peely-wally as ever.  It is embarrassing.

As the sun had come out by this time and there is still no rain in the forecast, I set about doing as much watering as I could bear before going in to make my tea.

The usual beans were accompanied by fresh carrots today.

carrots and beans

 

I think Mrs Tootlepedal may have won this year’s battle in the eternal war against carrot root fly. (Fingers crossed)

Mrs Tootlepedal returns later this week so some serious time will have to be spent tidying up before she comes, both indoors and in the garden.  You just don’t realise just how fast weeds grow until you are personally responsible for them….and the same applies to piles of dust.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

flying sparrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our recent week as guests in the south.  Sally and Richard took us to the gardens of this fine mansion, Heale House, which was built in the latter part of the sixteenth century.

Heale house

My ideal plan for the day relied on an early leap out of bed into glorious sunshine and the subsequent late arrival of a weather front.

The wind was forecast to be fairly light so a cycle ride of a reasonable length was part of the scheme.

In the event, the early sunshine was there but it was not matched by the equivalent leap out of bed.  The leap transmogrified into a late stagger and after a lengthy breakfast, I finally got on my bike at ten o’clock.  It was still sunny when I set out but it soon clouded over and I shortened my intended route to thirty four miles and just made it home before the untimely arrival of the weather front started the rain off.

I didn’t have time to stop and stare but I paused for a banana at Gretna Green and admired a pair of fine horses while I munched.

Gretna Green horses

They were the front end of a smart wedding conveyance….

gretna Green carriage

…waiting for another bride and groom to roll off the Gretna Green marriage conveyor belt.

Nearby stands a strange work of art.

gretna green

It acts as a photo frame for pictures of happy couples but it always looks to me like the hands of someone who has been buried prematurely and is begging to be released, perhaps not the most happy metaphor for a marriage.

There was just time for a quick scoot round the garden in some light drizzle when I got back before the rain set in for the rest of the day.

The gloomy weather had put the hoverflies off and the picturesque poppy only had a single small fly for company today.

poppy with fly

Some bright red leaves on the Virginia Creeper seemed appropriate for such a gloomy and autumnal day.

virginia creeper

But autumn brings fruit as well so all is not lost.

apples

A good reward for work with the pollinating paintbrush in our chilly spring

There are still plenty of flowers about…

the cutting bed

Kitchen chimney pot

…and new flowers are coming along.  There are anemones and astilbes among the dahlias now.

anemone, astilbe and dahlia

I thought that I had found a very odd dahlia….

dahlia

…until Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that I was looking at it from the back.

Not everything in the garden is lovely.  For some reason the Golden Syllabub rose, which has had plenty of buds, has never felt that it was the right time to open out and has looked like this all summer.

golden syllabub

It wasn’t very warm and the clouds had made the day dark and cheerless so it was most fortunate that the authorities had arranged a very interesting programme of Olympic events for us to watch.  We watched everything.

No flying birds today but there is a flower of the day.  It is a dahlia (viewed from the front).

dahlia

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our neighbour Liz who met this colourful beast on a recent walk in the south.

caterpillarI had been pressed by Scott, the minister, to go for a cycle ride of a decent distance with him as today promised wall to wall sunshine and tolerable winds.  As he had a morning meeting, the ride start  was scheduled for midday.  This gave me several hours after breakfast to change my mind about going or not going.   I used the opportunity to the full.

In the meantime, I spent a remarkably small amount of time (and mental anguish) on the phone while cancelling my existing contract and ordering a new model.  It should come tomorrow and after a few weeks, I may even be able to use it properly.  It is a 4G phone and as we only have 3G coverage in Langholm, it is a bit like casting pearls before swine.  It will be really good when i need to use in Carlisle though.

I also admired Mrs Tootlepedal’s raking skills as she achieved a fine tilth in the potato bed which we finally cleared yesterday.

tilthI also looked at a few flowers.

calendula

Two marigolds looked right back at me.

sunflowers

A burst of sunflowers is beginning to emerge.

dahlia

Possibly a perfect flower.  The dahlias have loved our recent weather.

poppy

A poppy flashing its skirts in the breeze

clematis

Yet another clematis has joined the show

In the end, I made up my mind that I was fit enough for a ‘decent’ distance and went off to meet Scott.  He kindly let me shelter behind him as we set off into the breeze and responded to my frequent requests to ‘slow it down a bit’ with the result that after twenty miles, I was relaxed enough to suggest a favourite route of mine that would give us a round fifty miles, a ‘decent distance’.

garmin route 25 Aug 2015We settled for this and pushed on.  I would have had many, many beautifully composed and  interesting pictures to show you of our route if my phone been fully charged.  As it was, it turned out to have a battery as dead as a dodo so you are spared any unnecessary details.

We stopped at Longtown after 35 miles to enjoy a pot of tea for two and some toasted tea cakes before taking on the final gently uphill section home.

The wind had seemed quite brisk when we set out but it didn’t seem so bad by the time that we finished.  This was lucky as it was coming out of the west and as you can see from the route map, this meant that it was against or across us for much longer than it was behind us.  Still, any day that I can manage 15 mph for fifty miles is a good day and thanks go to Scott for keeping my speed up by acting as a wind deflector when the going got tough.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker enjoying a cup of tea in the garden and discussing the best care for a poorly tree.  Mike told us that he had been for a couple of rides on his mountain bike with a friend who has just acquired an electric bike (they are getting increasingly popular).  He had enjoyed the outings but had found that being whizzed past by an electric bike while he was struggling up steep hills was not undiluted joy.

As Mike left, I took a picture of a very decorative poppy whose rich colour and many layers challenged Pocketcam to its limit.

poppyIt is actually redder than the pictures shows but I had to reduce the saturation in the photo editor to get any definition at all.

I also took a moment to watch the birds.

two shouting siskins

Two shouting siskins working in concert.

sparrows

In spite of the shouting siskins, it was basically ‘sparrow city’ today.

sparrow

There were some calm birds about

I resolved to go for a short walk in order to take some pictures to make up for the failure to record the bike ride.

I chose a walk that gave me a good view over the town…

Whita

You can see the top of the walnut tree in our garden at the bottom of the picture

…some interesting wild flowers.

convolvulus

The hedges are full of convolvulus now

The hedgerows are getting a bit barer now as the meadowsweet loses flowers….

meadowsweet..but not all the colour has gone.

knapweedThere was a gate that caught my eye….

gate…and then my camera battery ran out without notice (or at least without me noticing) so I turned round and came home.

Not my most successful day when it came to battery readiness.

I think that perhaps my legs were in cahoots with my battery because they felt quite pleased to be sitting down when I got back to the house.

In the evening, as there was nothing more interesting on the telly, I spent a little time watching the Bloomberg Channel.  It seems clearly evident that we are rushing headlong into another major financial crisis while governments fail to act and smart financiers see how much they can make by betting against their clients’ interests so I felt that I should be trying to find out what these experts thought was going on.  I learned that I should probably be unravelling my China shorts…..and no, it doesn’t make any sense to me either.

It is going to rain tomorrow but summer has been very good while it lasted.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a Venetian scene.  My daughter is there, working at the Venice Film Festival.  It’s tough to work in these conditions but she puts up with it.VeneziaMy legs had been grumbling a bit yesterday on the way back from our cream tea and they were positively mutinous this morning so I hearkened to their discontent and put them through nothing more strenuous today than a pedal up to the High Street to visit the chemist.

I could have avoided even this gentle exercise if I had known that the chemist would be shut when I got there.

I did manage a little walk round the garden…

clematis….where I managed to avoid taking a picture of the poppies for once.  Three or four clematis plants seem to able to ignore the chilly weather.

clematisAs the wind was from the east and quite brisk, I was pleased not to be out on the bike.  Sometimes the legs know best.

The sunflowers at the end of the drive have reached great heights…

sunflowers…and even though we have lost quite a few to the recent high winds, there are several sturdy plants still standing.  I was able to get a good picture of them as Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off in the car at the crack of dawn to catch a train to Edinburgh.  Matilda’s mother has hurt her back and lifting Matilda, who is a large baby, is difficult so Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to give her some assistance.

I took a not very good picture of a not very exciting plant…

geranium…just to celebrate its longevity.  These little blue geraniums have been in flower for several months now. 

Dropscone, who is a hardier man than I, dropped in for coffee after having been round the morning run.  He had found the wind quite hard to battle against at times but he had enjoyed himself.  He tells me that he was out playing golf in the terrible rain and hailstorm that we encountered on Saturday but it had been short enough that he had more or less dried out before he got to the end of the round.

After he left, I made some potato and bean soup and enjoyed it for my lunch with some sour dough bread and goat’s cheese.  My Mediterranean diet seems to have slipped a bit north for the moment.

I spent the afternoon lounging in a hot bath and practising on my new flute (after I had got out of the bath of course).

I found some time to stare out of the kitchen window.

busy feederAs you can see, the feeder was in demand.

siskin and chaffinchBut as I was in restful mode, I took a couple of peacefully perching chaffinches to reflect this.

chaffinchchaffinchIn the evening, my flute pupil Luke came for his lesson and we embarked on the tricky question of fingerings for high notes and trills.  As I have to look these up myself, it may take some time before we have mastered these.  Luke’s music reading is coming on very well and we are now trying to install that mental metronome into his head that is essential for playing in ensembles.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had gone off just after six in the morning, returned at eight in the evening.  Unsurprisingly she felt a little tired but perked up when she found that I had prepared a restorative dish of semolina for her.

A chaffinch just squeezed into the frame to make flying bird of the day.

chaffinch

 

 

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